CHAMPAIGN — Brendan McHale's nearly two decades supervising Carle Foundation Hospital's orthopedics and sports medicine department established contacts with dozens of athletic directors in the area.
He reached out to some of them when he was considering applying for the open Parkland College athletic director position.
Two in particular — the last two to hold that job in fact — proved valuable resources. McHale worked for both Jim Reed and Rod Lovett as Parkland's head athletic trainer from 1992 to 2006. He turned to both when applying for the job, and he'll continue to do so now that he's their successor.
Parkland announced McHale as its new athletic director Wednesday night following its board of trustees meeting.
"I got to learn from them, which was a huge benefit to me," McHale said. "It's an advantage I didn't realize at the time, but certainly looking back on those days it was something very much instrumental. I didn't think this opportunity would present itself, but it's something I thought about. The fact that it did and opened up, I think I would be kicking myself if I didn't try to make a run for it."
McHale understands one of his biggest initial challenges is the timing of his hire. The fall semester is already underway, meaning the men's and women's soccer and volleyball seasons are, too.
"It may speed up the process of me getting to know the coaches and getting to know the Parkland staff and the student-athletes," McHale said. "There's a lot of really good people out there and people I can at least bounce some ideas off of here at Parkland and in the area. The ultimate goal is for Parkland to have continued, traditional success regionally and nationally."
The bar is set high. Just two years ago, seven of Parkland's eight teams reached the NJCAA national championship stage. The Cobras' volleyball team won consecutive national titles in 2015 and 2016 and finished fourth last season.
"That doesn't happen to many teams — if any," McHale said. "I just need to continue to help the coaches be successful and find out ways for them to be successful."
McHale is still evaluating how he might continue to advance the Parkland athletic department. One area is taking an open and honest look at the seasons when the Cobras don't fare as well competitively and figuring out how any deficiencies can be addressed. He's got an eye on the future of Parkland athletics, too.
"I think the administration understands the benefit of athletics, and they're going to continue to support us," McHale said. "Who knows? In the future, we could have some new teams join. That's always been one of my things I thought in the background that I could hopefully add to the Parkland College athletic program. We'd have to do some studies and some feasibility to see if it's even possible and if it is, how successful they would be. We want to make sure we're competitive."